Grain-Free Diets and Heart Disease

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Grain–Free diets are an incredibly popular feeding choice for our pets. Many
of our clients are feeding grain-free diets at this time. This is due to great
marketing by pet food companies, emotional appeals, and the perception that
the high priced diets meant better quality. There is in fact no evidence that a
grain-free diet is better for your pet. In fact, grains are an important source of
vitamins and minerals and it is harder to balance a diet without them. There is
now a recognized link between feeding grain-free diets and an increase in heart
disease. Some of these cases are reversible and some of these cases are not.

There are over 90 types of foods/brands involved in the enormous scientific
investigation into the connection between grain-free diets and canine heart
disease. We know part of the issue is due to lack of Taurine. It’s been longestablished
that insufficient taurine levels can cause dilated cardiomyopathy in
some dogs and cats, but there is a new unknown component in addition to the
lack of Taurine that is causing dilated cardiomyopathy in 16% of cases.

The underlying cause has not yet been identified but nutritionally incomplete
and poorly formulated grain-free diets are suspected.

Research studies are currently underway and best practices will continue to
evolve, but what we know now is that grain-free diets are a risk factor for
heart disease.

What we recommend:

• Feed a diet provided by a major manufacturer with long-standing market
presence using traditional ingredients. Avoid grain-free diets and small
“boutique” pet foods. If doing an at home diet, please contact a nutritionist
to make sure it is correctly balanced.
• If your pet has true dietary restrictions, use a prescription diet. Remember,
most food allergies are to protein (chicken, beef, etc) and not to grain.
• Any sign of heart disease such as weakness, heart murmur, or arrhythmia
should be investigated.
• Report problems to the FDA
SafetyHealth/ReportaProblem/ucm182403.htm so we can continue getting
answers and make better recommendations to our clients.
At SmartVet we have taken all grain-free products off of our shelves in
response to the FDA report. Please speak with our staff or your veterinarian at
your next appointment about food recommendations.